1896 Birthday of Ira Gershwin, one of Broadway's most sterling lyricists, mainly in collaboration with his brother George Gershwin. Ira's musicals include Porgy and Bess; Of Thee I Sing; Lady, Be Good; Funny Face; Oh, Kay!; Girl Crazy; Lady in the Dark; and in adaptations after his death, My One and Only, Crazy for You, Never Gonna Dance, and Nice Work If You Can Get It.
1916 For Her Soldier Boy, Rida Johnson Young adapts her book to Emmerich Kalman's score, with additional music by Sigmund Romberg. The tale of a soldier returning from war opens at the Astor Theatre. It runs for 198 performances.
1939 What dreams does a nightclub men's room attendant dream? If that attendant is Bert Lahr, he's dreaming he's Louis XV and this must be Du Barry Was a Lady. Ethel Merman co-stars. Cole Porter supplies the music and lyrics to the book written by B.G. DeSylva and Herbert Fields.
1944 The timely A Bell for Adano rings in at the Cort Theatre. Fredric March stars as an American officer trying to help the defeated Italians rebuild their lives. Paul Osborn adapts John Hersey's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
1956 Ethel Merman stars as an American widow who travels to Monaco looking for a husband for her daughter and an invitation to Grace Kelly's wedding for herself in Happy Hunting, which opens today at the Majestic Theatre. Though the production ran for 412 performances, Merman will view the production as unsuccessful due to a score by the untested duo of Harold Karr and Matt Dubey. The experience will inspire her to later reject Stephen Sondheim as the composer-lyricist of Gypsy, pairing him as lyricist with more-than-established composer Jule Styne instead.
1972 Jennie Linden is My Fat Friend, at London's Globe Theatre. The Charles Laurence play continues right through to the following season.
1991 It is announced that the Nederlanders have decided to sell the gorgeous Mark Hellinger Theatre to the Times Square Church, as it remains to this day. The Hellinger was the theatre where Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison starred in the original Broadway production of My Fair Lady in 1956.
2001 Less than three months after the 9/11 attacks, the downtown Flea Theater opens a new play about a fire chief trying to compose eulogies for his dead men. Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray star. The Guys becomes a long-running hit, and is adapted for film.
2004 Gem of the Ocean, the ninth play in August Wilson's Century Cycle opens at the Walter Kerr Theatre starring Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and LisaGay Hamilton, with John Earl Jelks and Raynor Scheine. Kenny Leon directs. The story, set in 1904, begins on the eve of the 287th birthday of Aunt Ester (a recurring character in Wilson’s play cycle). Citizen Barlow, a man who is in spiritual turmoil, arrives at Aunt Ester’s house in Pittsburgh's Hill District and is soon set off on a spiritual journey to find the mythic City of Bones.
2009 Playwright David Mamet confronts the issue of racial prejudice in America with his drama Race, which opens on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. James Spader, David Alan Grier, Kerry Washington, and Richard Thomas star in the play about a law firm with one white partner and one black partner who take the case of a white man charged with a sex crime against a black woman.
2011 The East Village stage of New York Theatre Workshop takes the form of a Dublin pub—complete with booze bottles, smoky mirrors, and sepia-glowing incandescent bulbs—for the Manhattan premiere of the Irish-pop and folk-infused musical Once, based on the hit indie film. Featuring the music of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, and starring Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, the production transfers to Broadway the following year, and wins the Tony Award for Best Musical.
2012 A revival of Golden Boy, Clifford Odets' 1937 drama about a young musician who takes a gamble on his own artistic dreams when he enters the boxing ring, opens at the Belasco Theatre. Directed by Bartlett Sher, it stars Seth Numrich in the central role of Joe Bonaparte.
2015 School of Rock – The Musical, the first new Andrew Lloyd Webber show to open on Broadway in a decade, opens at the Winter Garden Theatre, where his Cats ran for nearly 18 years. The musical is based on the 2003 film about a down-and-out rock guitarist who gets a job as a substitute teacher. Alex Brightman and Sierra Boggess star.
2018 Bryan Cranston returns to Broadway in a stage adaptation of the 1976 film Network, opening at the Belasco Theatre. The production, first seen at London's National Theatre the previous year, is directed by Ivo van Hove and has a script by Lee Hall, based on the Paddy Chayefsky screenplay. Cranston wins a Tony Award for his performance as news anchor Howard Beale.
More of Today's Birthdays: E. H. Sothern (1859-1933). Lynn Fontanne (1887-1983). Herman Shumlin (1898-1979). Joseph Buloff (1900-1985). Agnes Moorehead (1900-1974). Wally Cox (1924-1973). Bobby Van (1928-1980). James Naughton (b. 1945). Tom Hulce (b. 1953). Jack Thorne (b. 1978).